The two-week mission trip that Paola and I experienced was truly amazing. We praise God that we were able to leave our comfort zone and serve for two weeks. And out of our comfort zone it was. I was thinking that for some people coming to La Paz, Bolivia would probably be considered outside their comfort zone. Coming to La Paz used to be outside of my comfort zone. Not anymore. After living here in the city for a year and a half I have become….guess what…comfortable. Paola and I have to leave the city these days to feel uncomfortable.
Thank God for this mission trip. God gave us the opportunity to leave our comfort zone and feel dependence on Him. What happens is that I think most of us are too comfortable in our lives. In fact, I think most people try to get to the end of life in the safest and most comfortable way possible. Sometimes we are just too comfortable and too prepared for the things that are placed in our path. And some of the best experiences of my life have been when I have been uncomfortable and unprepared. In my experience when I am uncomfortable and unprepared I NEED God more. I need His help more. And in those moments we experience God’s faithfulness in ways like never before.
That was my experience on this mission trip. I was never much of what you might call a “camper.” I am not really someone who hears the letters "REI" and thinks...cool. I was just never really an “outdoors person.” And this trip challenged me in new and different ways. We camped. We hiked carrying backpacks and medical supplies in the jungle. We traveled down rivers in rafts and boats. We got out of the boat in the river to push sometimes because we were stuck. One of the rafts flipped over in the river. One of the doctors almost died from an ant bite because she was allergic. I ate whatever was on my plate without thinking twice. I received insect bites all over my legs and arms. The list goes on and on…it was basically the closest that my life has gotten to the show SURVIVOR I think.
We first traveled six hours in Land Cruisers to a small town called Charazani. There we sorted all of the meds that the doctors/nurses brought for the trip. Then we traveled a day and a half down the river in rafts to reach a village called Mapiri. (And when I say raft it is not what you think. It was wood with rubber tires underneath.) In Mapiri the team held a seminar for the healthcare workers in the area and I translated for the team for some of the breakout sessions.
After Mapiri the team of 30 split into two medical teams and we began traveling down the river again…this time in longboats with motors. Each team began visiting different villages to hold medical clinics. Paola worked with the kids in each village. Sometimes she had 10 kids and sometimes 80 kids. A huge job. She educated them on a wide variety of healthcare issues. I translated for the doctors/nurses at the clinics in each village. I saw a wide variety of health problems up close and personal like never before. All the way from cutting open and pulling a worm out of the scalp of a little boy to a 40 year old man with almost complete Cataracts in his eyes. I saw some other cases that are actually to graphic to describe here. I have much greater respect for doctors and nurses now that’s for sure. I think all in all we gave medical care to about 1,200 people.
After visiting all of the villages down the river we traveled to Caranavi to visit the “House of Hope” orphanage before finally heading back to La Paz. Bottom line…God changed our perspective again. We got to experience God’s love in new ways. We got to serve Him in new ways. We got to see poverty to a new level and we thank God for the blessings that He has given us.
We are on this earth to bless others. It’s not about accumulating stuff. It’s not about building a safe, comfortable castle to hole ourselves up in. It’s not about safety. It’s about leaving our comfort zones. It’s about serving others and telling them that the reason that you are serving them is because 2,000 years ago a man named Jesus came to this earth to serve ALL OF US like never before.
The last year and a half has been the most exciting experience of my life. Now I am married and I have a wife who shares the same calling and passion that I do. Paola and I have no idea where God is going to take us on this road. All we know is that we want more than anything to be on this road.
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